Eco-Resort Connects Community and Culture
“Laguna Lodge,” I said to the men standing near the muelle (boat dock) in Panajachel. They motioned me toward the small blue and white boats at the end of an old, well traveled, wooden dock. The captain took my large backpack and quickly tossed it up onto the top of the boat.
I boarded the lancha (boat), stepping down onto a small step, hoping to not fall to the bottom of the boat as it was rocking side to side. I took a seat by some reserved local Mayan women; they were all wearing colorful Mayan clothing consisting of huipiles (blouses), cortes (skirts) and fajas (belts). Later on, I learned that each of the colors and patterns represents the villages in which they live. I felt like I was taking a journey back in time to where things were a little simpler.
The little girl in the front of the boat smiled at me with an innocent, toothless smile as we started our journey away from the shore onto Lake Atitlán. About 20 minutes later, after being awed by the beautiful turquoise water and fresh green highlands, the small boat pulled up to a private well-maintained dock. Surrounded by green and tucked into nature, I had arrived at the boutique style eco-resort, Laguna Lodge. I knew I was starting my travels on the lake at a unique and special place.
Lago (lake) Atitlán is known as one of the most beautiful lakes in the world. It’s a freshwater volcanic lake, over 1,000 feet deep, 50 square miles in area, and located in the Guatemalan highlands. Surrounding the lake are three volcanoes: Volcán Atitlán, Volcán San Pedro and Volcán Tolimán. The indigenous Mayan villages encompassing the lake preserve their original culture, which you can observe in their clothing, artisan work, cooking, language, and homes.
Relaxation. Elegance. Nature.
In my daily life and in my travels, I like to choose three words each day. Three words to harness the energy around me, but also three words to simplify influential life experiences, feelings, and memories.
Relaxation, elegance, and nature perfectly describe Laguna Lodge, an ‘Eco-Resort and Nature Reserve’ located on beautiful Lake Atitlán. These are just some of the powerful words I chose to harness my experience as a guest at one of National Geographic’s World Legacy Award Finalists.
The only way to access Laguna Lodge is by small boat or by foot walking along the shore from the neighboring village of Santa Cruz. There’s no road access, which further deepens the ability to unwind. The lodge remains pretty quiet all day long. From time to time, you’ll hear a lancha, some local singing birds, and possibly the local Mayan fisherman chatting in Kachiquel on the water in their traditional handmade canoes.
Solo Female Travel
When looking for a place to stay on Lake Atitlán, I didn’t go to the guidebooks or travel websites. I also didn’t learn about Laguna Lodge from National Geographic. When making personal travel decisions, I usually talk to people, ask for referrals or just simply follow my heart. I encountered Laguna Lodge by doing a personal search on Google Maps. The words “Eco-Resort and Nature Reserve” piqued my nature loving interest.
I’m a solo female traveler, holistic health and lifestyle wellness coach, and always curious (and ready) to explore new countries and take in unique experiences while living a healthy and active life. Laguna Lodge seemed to be a “Naturalita” fit.
Culture and Community Connection
At Laguna Lodge, all staff is native to Guatemala and either arrives at Laguna Lodge by foot from the neighboring village or by boat. The staff speaks the local Mayan dialect Kachiquel, Spanish, and English. Being an environmentally conscious and community involved business, they support both the local villages and environment by hiring local indigenous staff, purchasing food, products, and supplies within the community and taking action to minimize the lodge’s carbon footprint. An impressive and thought filled program, Laguna Community Care, was created and supported by Laguna Lodge and guests to provide professional support to the local indigenous community in the areas of health, quality of life and community needs.
Natural Boutique Style Comfort
Each of Laguna Lodge’s six suites and villa has a picturesque view with real life scenes of majestic Lake Atitlan, natural lake life, and the grounding presence of the lake’s grandiose volcanoes. I stayed in the Pato Poc Suite which is named after an extinct water bird. The stunning panoramic views from the suite’s balcony kept me grounded and awed all day long, making it hard to leave my quiet little peace of heaven.
Mayan culture and well thought out naturally inspired detail filled the Pato Poc suite. Everything within each suite has a purposeful significance and connects to the larger mission, either to represent Mayan (or Guatemalan) culture or to “protect and respect assets of nature and culture by sustainable tourism.”
Experiencing the lodge’s boutique-style elegance and relaxing comfort may cause you to immediately fall in love with Guatemala and yearn to explore more of the country’s mostly undiscovered cultural and natural charm. Learning about Laguna Lodge’s mission will cause you to deepen that love into an amorous relationship; once here, you may not want to leave.
Healthy Locally Grown Organic Food – Zotz Restaurant
Fresh organic vegetables are harvested daily from the on-site gardens or purchased from local farmers, while free range eggs are delivered from the local village and served at the lodge’s restaurant, Zotz. Organic shade grown coffee, which flourishes around the lake, is grown in the nature reserve. To be more ecologically sustainable, Zotz Restaurant serves vegan and vegetarian food. Not only is everything fresh, local and organic, but the taste, flavor, and creativity of meals were quite impressive and delectably appetizing.
As someone who has a variety of food allergies and food intolerances, Zotz Restaurant was very accommodating. Their attentive staff went above and beyond in preparing exquisite four-course dinners. Each evening, I savored impressive globally flavored meals while sitting at a quiet, romantic candlelit table surrounded by panoramic volcanic silhouettes and sunset views. Every morning I would enjoy my freshly made, locally sourced typical Guatemalan breakfast in my quiet personal sanctuary. Everything was made gluten free and dairy free, per my personal dietary needs.
Tzantizotz Nature Reserve
Safe and secluded private access to over 100 acres of impressive nature trails is right at your feet. Just grab the trail map and head out on a solo, guide-free hike any time of day. Hiking and exploring nature are some things that I love to do when traveling to new countries. The Tzantizotz Nature Reserve begins at the turquoise waters on the lakefront and extends high up to the lush verdurous tropical rainforest. Lush leafy trees, blossoming plants and the abundance of natural green landscape surrounds your every step.
Climbing up the steep ancient Mayan trails provides an accomplishable challenge with the reward of glistening images of the majestic lake below. The surrounding volcanoes and glorious green highlands engulf the natural energy of Guatemala. If you’re looking for a place to relax and soak in the stunning views and energy, take a little pit stop at the palapas (hammocks), which is toward the end of your 2-hour hike. Daily hiking in the nature reserve helped further my ability to disconnect with everything and reconnect with myself.
Laguna Lodge definitely holds a special place in my wanderlust heart. The majestic blue water, colorful sunrises, panoramic volcanic views, and friendly service made me feel centered and at home while being surrounded by the natural beauty of Guatemala.
If you are interested in staying at Laguna Lodge, a world-class Guatemalan Eco-Resort and Nature Reserve, you can contact them here for reservations and more information prior to your Guatemalan adventure.